The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle: Wischards, Hotots, and Colkyns at the Manors of Esol and Freydevill’ in Nonington-revised 6.5.2020

 

The Wischards at Essewelle

In 1166 King Henry II commanded that persons holding knights fees by barony were required to certify them in the Exchequer. The tenants in chief were instructed to clearly distinguish between fees of old feoffment, a fee in existence before the death of King Henry I in December, 1135, and of new feoffment.

Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine holding court.

A knight’s fee was a fiscal unit of land value held by a knight from an over-lord in return for specified military service, usually forty days a year After the Norman Conquest all land was owned by the King, who then allocated land to his barons in return for the provision by each baron of a specified number of knights for annual military service. To fulfill this quota that barons divided their land amongst their followers with each division being held from the baron in return for annual military service. The amount of land needed to support a knight was dependent on the location and type of land held. The richer the land, the smaller the fee.
A knight’s fee was created by the process of subinfeudation, the division of the initial grant of land by the King, in to two or more smaller fees, which in their turn could be divided into smaller units by the over-lord or the holder of the fee. This meant that a knight holding a fee could create his own feudal retainer who would pledge fealty to him rather than to the overlord. This type of holding was known as a sub-fee.
The practice of sub-division by over-lords was outlawed by the statute of Quia Emptores in 1290, but sub-division through inheritance by the daughters of a fee holder in the absence of a sole male heir continued.

After the certification of knights fees by the Exchequer the Barony of Maminot became one of eight baronies owing duty of Castleguard to Dover Castle with the Barony of Maminot duty bound to provide three knights for four week periods of service.  This duty of thirty-two weeks annual service at Dover Castle service was shared by knights who held fees from the Barony of Maminot knights of whom some fifteen were from Kent with the remainder coming from other parts of the kingdom.
These knight’s fees were mainly derived from the estates confiscated from Bishop Odo by King William II in 1088 and redistributed amongst the English barons and Essewelle was one such property.

The Exchequer return for the Barony of Maminot in 1166 recorded that Alan Wisc’ [Wischard] held one knight’s fee which, although not recorded by name, was the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Either he or an heir of the same name continued to hold Essewelle until the early 1200’s as this name appears in connection with a civil case in Kent brought before the King John’s Justices of the Bench at Easter of 1203. Alan Wischard and other members of his family also held land in Bedfordshire.
Alan Wischard died at some time after 1203 leaving a widow, Dionisia [Dionysia] Wischard, who held Essewelle in her own right from the Barony of Say, and two daughters. These two daughters were joint heiresses of Dionisia and therefore each entitled to one half [moiety] of the fee.  Isobel, the elder of the two daughters, married Hugh de Hotot [Hotoft] with whom she had a daughter named Nichola. Hugh de Hotot appears to have become the principal tenant of Dionisia’s knight’s fee of Essewelle through his marriage to the eldest of Dionisia’s daughters, and he also held land in his own right in Bedfordshire where in April of 1219 he made a grant of land to Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] when Geoffrey married Nichola.

The name of Alan and Dionisia Wischard’s younger daughter is not at present known, but she married Ralph [Ranulph] Colkyn [Colekyn,Colekin, Calkin, Kulkin, Kalkyn], a member of a wealthy Canterbury mercantile family, and through this marriage to the youngest of Dionisia’s daughters Ralph became the sub-tenant of Hugh de Hotot at Essewelle. Ralph and his wife had a son, Hugo, heir his mother’s Essewelle inheritance.

The Hotots and Colkyns inherit
Hugh de Hotot was summoned to appear before the Justices at Westminster on Kent on the Morrow of All Souls [3rd November] of 1219 as “chargeable as tenant of lands in Eswell [Essewelle] that had belonged to Dionisia Wischard, with part of a debt due by her to the King upon Jewish account”. This meant that Dionisia was indebted to a Jew, most likely from Canterbury, and the debt had been seized by the king in payment of taxes owed to the King by the Jewish lender. The fact that it is stated that is was property that had [in the past] belonged to Dionisia Wischard in Essewelle [Eswell], and that Dionisia did not appear before the Justices in person indicates that she had died and a claim for payment of the debt had been made against her estate by the King.
Ralph Colkyn produced evidence that he had himself paid the money claimed by the King to Reginald de Cornhill, one of King John’s administrators, and Robert the Clerk who were in turn summoned to reimburse the King for this and other money they had collected on his behalf but had retained for their own use. This they failed to do and their property was distrained.
Thomas de Retling, who had bought 216 acres of land at Estretling [Old Court] in 1196 and was therefore a close neighbour of Ralph Colkyn’s, was also alleged to owe a debt to the King upon Jewish account at the same time as Ralph. Quite possibly he had borrowed money from a Jewish moneylender to purchase the land at Estretling.  Fortunately for Thomas he was also able to show that he had settled his debt to the King by paying Reginald de Cornhill who once again had kept it for his own use. These thefts of Royal revenue were made possible by the widespread loss of King John’s authority brought about by the First Baron’s War.

The Jews in England.
The Jews were legally the personal property of the King and enjoyed royal protection, and as wards of the crown they had the freedom of the King’s highways and could hold property directly from the King. At this time Jews were barred from virtually all professions and Christians were prohibited from the business of usury, the charging of interest on loans, so usury was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. Their legal status left Jews open to the seizure of taxation [tallage] by the King, and this taxation could be very heavy and was often arbitrary with the King taxing the Jews whenever he needed money. Around the time that Hugh de Hotot was summoned before the Justices at Westminster the Jewish community made up less than 0.25 per cent of the population, but provided some 8 per cent of the King’s income.
There is no evidence of Jews in England before the invasion and conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066.  Jews from Rouen, in William’s Duchy of Normandy, arrived soon after the conquest and quickly established a network of credit and trading links between William’s English and French possessions.

Jews being expelled from England in 1290

After the outbreak of the English Civil War between the Empress  Matilda and Stephen of Blois the subsequent breakdown of centralized law and order made travel for trade purposes extremely dangerous and it is thought that Jews abandoned trade almost entirely in favour of banking and loaning money during this time.  Christians at this time were prohibited from the business of “usury”, the charging of interest on loans, so it was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. After the end of “The Anarchy” successive English kings profited greatly from the wealth generated by Jewish financiers.
Borrowing money from Jews was by no means unusual for members of the landed classes at this time, and even the Church borrowed money from them. Many of the great Christian cathedrals and churches of the time were built with money borrowed from Jews.

However, the increasing indebtedness of the landed classes and the Church to the Jews led to great resentment resulting in sporadic orchestrated outbursts of anti-Semitism which, despite their supposed royal protection, often resulted in massacres of the Jews and the destruction of their loan records. During the reign of Edward I the Lombard bankers from Northern Italy became more prominent in the international banking business and the King became less dependent on Jewish financiers for loads and taxation. Edward also brought in more legislation which restricted the Jews ability to make any profits from business which greatly reduced the usefulness of the Jews to him. Eventually political pressure and huge financial inducements from his barons led to Edward I expelling the Jews from the kingdom in 1290, and Jews were not officially re-admitted to England until 1655, during Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

The end of the First Barons War and beyond

King Henry III, born 1207, reigned 1216–1272. He succeeded King John, his father, at the age of nine.

After the end of the First Barons War in 1217 changes had been made to the fabric and administration of Dover Castle, one of the principal changes being that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became “ward of Dover Castle” or Castleward rent. This discharged a fee holder from all personal service and attendance and enabled the King to use the rent money received to garrison the castle with professional soldiers. The rent payment was 120 pence (10 shillings, now 50 new pence) which was payment in lieu of the service and exactions of providing guards for Dover Castle, which in the case of the Barony of Say, which included Essewelle, was for eight months every year.
This commutation of military service into cash payments allowed wealthy  non-members of the knightly class, such as merchants,  to purchase estates held by knight‘s fee which they had previously been barred from owning as they could not perform the relevant military service owed. Many wealthy town based merchants and tradesmen took advantage of this and purchased country estates they were then able to own in their own right.

Although Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] was married to Isobel de Hotot’s daughter Isobel and her son-in-law appear not to have got on at times. They were at odds in 1223 when Geoffrey was involved in a suit against Isobel concerning her laying waste to land he owned in Houghton, Bedfordshire.
However, their differences appear to have been resolved by 1227 as that year Isabel de Hotoft used Geoffrey Cunquest as her attorney to petition against Hamo Colkyn [Colekyn], the heir to Ralph Colkyn and his Wischard wife’s property at Essewelle. Isabel claimed that Hamo should pay service to her for the customs of the tenement he held from her in Esewaut [Esole at Essewelle] as she was the elder sister and Hamo was the child of the [unknown] younger sister.
This seems to confirm that  Hamo had inherited what became the manor of Esole, and that Isobel de Hotot, and later her daughter Nichola, held that moiety of the fee that became the manor of Freydevill’.

Around 1240 to 1242 Geoffrey Conquestor and Nichola’s heirs, the date of Nichola’s death is not at present known and neither are the names of the heirs, sold their half of the Essewelle fee to Roger de Kennardington [Rogerus de Kynardinton], a member of a West Kent landowning family whose Manor of Kynardinton, from which the family took their name, lay on the borders of the Weald of Kent between Tenterden and Romney Marsh. The half sold may have actually been a moiety of the Essewelle fee, which is a half but not necessarily an equal half. Roger may have in fact bought one quarter of the fee with three-quarters remaining in the possession of Hamo Colkyn, something which the later Kent knight’s list of 1253-54 appears to confirm.
The sale document records that this half fee at Essewelle was held in payment to the Barony of Say as Essewelle’s over-lord of annual scutage only [no military service owed] of 42/-, with half paid at Easter and half paid at Michaelmas [29th September]. The holder of the half fee was also liable for the previously mentioned annual charge of 120 pence [10/-] for “ward of Dover Castle”.
Holders of a knight’s fee, or part thereof, originally had had to carry out specified military services for their over-lord. However, by early to mid-13th century the payment of scutage, literally shield money, had generally replaced military service and over-lords used the revenue from scutage to employ professional full time soldiers to replace the previously “part-time” knights who held their knights fees.

The Colkyns of Essewelle
Not long after de Kynardinton’s purchase of the half fee at Essewelle the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekin and Roger de Kynardinton’, hold one fee at Esewelle from William de Say, who holds it from the King”. However, it was not to be a happy relationship between Hamo and Roger.

In 1249 Roger de Kynardinton’ borrowed money from the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral Priory and used the £10 annual revenue he received from Freydevill’, the moiety of the knight’s fee of Essewelle he had purchased in 1244, in part security for the loan. This revenue appears to have derived from manorial rents and fines. This loan document contains the earliest known use of Freydevill’, or any of its many variant, to describe the one of the two manors that made up the knights fee of Essewelle and confirms that Nicola Conquest had inherited the moiety of Essewelle that was to become known as the manor of Fredydevill’ and Hamo Colkyns’ moiety was to become the manor of Esol.

The following year Hamo Colkyn [Kalkin] was summoned to court by William de Say, Baron of Say and Hamo’s over-lord, for the non-payment of feudal dues owed for tenure of Freydevill’. Hamo asked William to acquit him of this debt as it was in fact owed by Roger de Kynardinton’ who was actually in possession of Freydevill’. This appears to show that Roger was in fact the sub-tenant of Hamo, the holder of the fee of Essewelle from the Barony of Say.
William de Say stated that Hamo should pay the dues for the whole fee and it was up to Hamo to get payment from Roger de Kynardinton’ for the dues owed on the sub-fee of Freydevill’ that he held.
Hamo was not the only person pursuing Roger for payment. At the same time John, the son of William de Frogham, and Richard Prit were also pursuing a claim against Roger, but unfortunately the claim was not specified in the court records. Roger did not turn up in court, despite being given time to do so, and an attachment on Roger’s property was made in favour of his creditors.

Roger de Kynardinton’ appears to have at least temporarily resolved his problems and retained his holding as the 1253-54 Kent lists of knight’s fees records that Ralph [Radulf] Colkyn, presumably Hamo’s son, held three parts of one fee and Roger de Kenardynton’ held one part of one fee in the Manor of Essewelle [Eswall] from Willelm de Say. This appears to confirm that Fredvill’ was the smaller of the moieties of Essewelle, and Ralf Colkyn’s inheritance was the larger, which appears to be a reversal of the situation in 1219 when Ralph Colkyn’s grand-father and namesake was held to be the sub-tenant of Isabella de Hotot. Obviously the situation had changed, but when and how is not known.

Ralph Colkyn: the massacre of the Jews of Canterbury and the Second Barons War (1264–1267).

Simon de Montford, from a stained glass window in Chartres Cathedral

When Henry III succeeded to the English throne after the death of his father, King John, in 1216. He initially had the support of the powerful English barons. However,  over the years support for the King ebbed away as he became increasingly unpopular with many of the barons believing Henry to be an ineffective monarch who was influenced by foreign favourites, levied increasingly harsher taxation, and waged expensive foreign wars for his own personal gain. As opposition to Henry’s perceived misrule grew many of the discontented barons looked to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, for leadership and he became increasingly more powerful. De Montfort and his supporters wanted to limit the Henry’s power by forcing him to rule with the assistance and advice  of a council of barons and when Henry summoned Parliament in 1258  to ask for more funds the barons forced him to accept reforms which in effect gave the power of governance to a council of English magnates. These reforms were known as ‘ “The Provisions of Oxford”, but in the following years the provisions were subject to revocations and reinstatements by King Henry with supported from the Pope.
By 1263 Henry III and the English barons were on the brink of open warfare and to avoid a civil war the barons had asked King Louis IX of France to mediate between Henry and themselves, but Louis was a firm believer in royal prerogative and pronounced firmly in favour of Henry and in January of 1264 the French king issued his decision in what became known as “The Mise of Amiens”. The barons outright rejection of Louis decision was immediately followed by their open rebellion against Henry III under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, which became known as “The Second Barons War”.

Henry III’s forces had an early success in the conflict when they took the rebel held castle at Northampton in early April of 1264. One of the captured garrison was Simon, the son of Simon de Montfort. However, this success was short lived when the following month the Royalists were defeated at the Battle of Lewes in East Sussex which was fought on 14th May. After the battle the King was forced to issue “The Mise of Lewes” in which he accepted the reimplementation of the Provisions of Oxford. Prince Edward, Henry’s son and the future King Edward I, who had led the Royalist cavalry during the battle was taken as a hostage by the barons.  After the  victory of 14th of May  Simon de Montfort became de facto ruler of England.

Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester

A major concern of the rebel barons  was their debt to Jewish money lenders  and one of their principle demands to Henry III was that these debts should be written off, but as tallages [taxes] on the Jews were a major source of revenue to the Crown this did not happen. Simon de Montfort, like many barons, was indebted to Jewish moneylenders and in April of 1264 he instigated a nationwide persecution of the Jews and encouraged his supporters to kill Jews, seize their property, and destroy records of debts owed to them.
In the 1260’s Canterbury was one of the main centres for English Jewry and probably had a population of a hundred or so Jews who owned twenty or more houses. For the three decades after 1240 the dominant member of the Jewry of Canterbury was Solomon, or Salle, the son of Josce. In 1241 Salle led a five man delegation from Canterbury to a gathering of the leaders of English Jewry convened in the city of Worcester to raise a tallage [tax] of 20,000 marks. Salle was chirographer of the Canterbury archa in 1249 and he later paid £1 that office to go to Benedict, his son-in-law. As with other Canterbury Jews Salle lent money to Christ Church and other religious institutions as well as to the local laity. 

The overt persecution of Canterbury’s Jewish population preceded the Second Barons War. In 1261 the Jews were attacked by both  clerical and lay inhabitants of Canterbury and although no Jews were killed  some of their houses were set on fire and  Jewish owned property was damaged or looted, but far worst excesses were to follow after Simon de Montfort’s victory at Lewes.

In April of 1264 what was to become known as known as “The Massacre of the Jews” was instigated by Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester, after he took possession of Canterbury. At this time of the massacre Gilbert de Clare was an ally of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester and was one of the most powerful and brutal of all English nobles and held the castle at Tunbridge in Kent. He was known as “Red” Gilbert de Clare or “the Red Earl”, probably because of his hair colour and also for his terrible temper and bloodthirsty demeanour. Although at the time of the Canterbury massacre  Gilbert de Clare  and Simon de Montfort were allies  the two earls later fell  out  and Gilbert went  over to the Royalist side and aided the escape of Prince Edward from captivity  just before the Battle of Evesham in August of 1265 where Simon de Montfort was killed.

During the massacre an unknown number of the city’s Jewish inhabitants were killed, Jewish property was looted and destroyed, and a number of Jewish women were baptized to avoid further persecution. Those Jews who survived the pogrom fled the city and did not return until after Simon de Montfort’s death at Evesham. When Salle returned to Canterbury from exile abroad in 1265  his property was restored to him by Henry III.

Ralph Colkyn of Esol  was almost certain to have been in debt to one or more of Canterbury’s Jewish moneylenders and appears to have been an active participant in the attacks against Canterbury’s Jews and their property in April of 1264. In 1268 Ralph was  summoned by King Henry III  to appear before the Exchequer of Jewry and accused of being involved in offences against “the King’s Peace” during the Massacre of the Jews. Ralph’s late grand-father and namesake had also received a summons to appear before the Exchequer of Jewry in 1219, but in 1268 the charges were of a much more serious nature.
The King’s summons accused Ralph of being one of nineteen men who in April of 1264 “came and entered the house of Simon Paable at Canterbury [bailiff (‘Ballivus’) of Canterbury], and by force and arms thence took and carried away the King’s Chirograph-Chest against the King’s peace”.  The King claimed that the theft of the chest and the chirographs it contained caused him financial losses of £100.
The nineteen accused were: Thomas de la Weye, later a Sheriff of Kent in 1270’s;  Sir Ralph Haket of Hamwold [Hamill]; William de Herthanger [later Barfrestone Court Farm, Barfrestone]; Ralph Colkyn [of Esol]; John de Pecham; John de la Haye; John de Oystregate; Laurence de Neusole; Hugh de Sancto Gregorio; William de Stonham; Roger de Tutesham; Thomas de Farle; Reginald de Blancmuster; Ralph de Hyham; Roger de Tilemanneston; John de Everle; John de Everinge [from Alkham parish]; Nicholas Barrok; and Maynard Wimund.

Jewish money-lenders. An anti-Semitic picture from a 13th-century manuscript.

Despite exhaustive inquiries at the time of the alleged offences the Sheriff of Kent had failed to apprehend any of the perpetrators of the theft or recover the chest or any of the chirographs  stored therein. The loss of the chirographs stored in the chest would at first appear mean that debts owed to Canterbury’s Jews by church institutions and the laity  would be irrecoverable by the lenders. However, for his own financial benefit Henry III wanted to maintain the wealth of the recently plundered Jews and gave Salle, who had survived the massacre by fleeing abroad, and several other surviving Canterbury Jews the authority to collect any loans for which the lender had a written record. This enabled Salle to recover £35 of the debt owed to him with loan charters he held “outside the chest”.

A chirograph was a medieval document, which has been written in duplicate, triplicate or very occasionally quadruplicate (four times) on a single piece of parchment, with the Latin word “chirographum” (occasionally replaced by some other term) written across the middle, and then cut through to separate the parts.

The King’s chirograph chest, or archa, contained records of transactions between Jews and Christians under the provisions of the 1233 Statute concerning Jews which specified that: “Loans contracted with Jews shall be by “chirograph only, not tally”. The Jew shall have the 1st part, with the seal of the Christian debtor attached; the Christian debtor the 2nd part; the 3rd part, the pes [foot] shall be put in the chest for safe keeping by both Christian and Jewish chirographers. A chirograph whose foot is not in the chest shall be invalid”. An archa had three padlocks and three sets of seals. Originally archae were located in six or seven towns in England, including London, Oxford, and Canterbury. The Canterbury archa had been established in 1190.

In the Easter term of the legal calendar of 1270 the proceedings against Thomas de la Weye, William de Herthangre, Ralph Colkin, John de Everle, Roger de Tillemanneston, and John de Evering were ended when the Sheriff of Kent, despite being given previous opportunities to make a return before the court against the six aforementioned defendants, made no return against them.

Previous allegiances at this time were very complex and it’s likely that Ralph Colkyn’s affiliations to Gilbert de Clare and Sir William de Say at the time of the massacre and after the Battle of Evesham in August of 1265 were behind the ending of the proceedings against him.

Sir William de Say had fought for King Henry III at the Battle of Lewes on 14th May, 1264,  and after the defeat of the King’s army Sir William’s various manors, lands, & other properties in Kent were seized, often for the benefit of Gilbert de Clare who had fought alongside Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Lewes.
After the Battle of Evesham and the restoration to power of Henry III an inquisition was made as to who had sided with whom in the Second Barons War. The inquisition records that in the Hundred of Bridge the Manor of Patrixbourne was seized from Sir William de Say on 17th May, 1264, and appears to come under the control of Gilbert de Clare.  In November of 1264 Gilbert de Clare fell out with Simon de Montfort and went over to King Henry III  and fought for the king against his former ally in the Battle of Evesham on 4th August, 1265, where de Montfort was killed.   Sir William de Say had also fought for Henry III at Evesham alongside Gilbert de Clare and after the Royalist victory Gilbert de Clare returned Sir William’s property with possession of Patrixbourne  returning to Sir William on 8th September, 1265. In the following months Sir William  seized various property  property in Kent from still active rebels on behalf of Gilbert de Clare. 

Although there is no known record of the knight’s fee of Essewelle and attached lands held by Ralph Colkyn coming under the control of Gilbert de Clare after the Battle of Lewes, it is almost certain that Gilbert de Clare became Ralph Colkyn’s over-lord. His new allegiance and subsequent obedience to his new over-lord would explain why Ralph was one of the nineteen men who seized and stole the Canterbury chirograph chest at Gilbert de Clare’s instigation. It could also explain the non-presentation by the Sheriff of Kent in the legal proceedings against Ralph in 1270, as Gilbert de Clare had become a very influential supporter of the King after changing to the Royalist side  in November of 1264 and playing an important part in the victory at Evesham in August of 1265. In addition to Gilbert de Clare’s possible influence over the proceedings another mitigating factor could have been the support of  Sir William de Say, one of  Henry III’s steadfastly loyal ante-rebellion supporters.

In the post-Evesham inquisition, there is an entry for the Monday after Michaelmas 49 Henry III. [Michaelmas was Tuesday, 29th Sept in 1265 therefore the following Monday was 5th October, 1265],

 Hundred of Estrye [Eastry].

No one in the hundred was a rebel.

+++++

The land of Ralph Colkyn was seized into the hand of Sir William de Say,

but he took nothing away and did not eject Ralph. It is worth 12 marks [£8]

a year, and the Michaelmas rent Ralph received, viz. 14s.

+++++

This inquisition entry confirms that Ralph Colkyn retained the land at Esol held from Sir William de Say’s Barony of Say. Another inquisition entry records that Ralph  seized land in the possession of rebels on behalf of Sir Roger de Leyburn [Leybourne], who during the two years of conflict after Evesham served as principal lieutenant of Prince Edward, son of Henry III and later King Edward I, in defeating the Montfortian rebels in Kent.
Ralph Colkyn as holder of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, a part of the Barony of Say, would have his over-lord’s allegiances during the Second Barons War. Initially Ralph would have followed Sir William de Say, Baron Say, as an ally of Henry III until the king’s defeat at the Battle of Lewes. After the seizure of William de Say’s lands and property by Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester, Ralph would  have become a fief of  Gilbert who  had at the beginning of the rebellion been on the side of Simon de Montfort against King Henry III, but after November of 1264 changed his allegiance to the Royalist cause. In the aftermath of the Royalist victory at the Battle of Evesham and the subsequent restoration of lands to the King’s supporters  Ralph would then have once again become a fief of Sir William de Say, a fiefdom in which the Colkyn family remained until the mid-1340’s.


After the Second Barons War.

King Henry III died in November of 1272 and was succeeded by King Edward I. The last years of his father’s reign had been very tumultuous due to the Second Barons War and its aftermath and the new king wanted to restore law and order and begin to raise revenue from taxation.

Edward I, also known as Longshanks and Malleus Scotorum-the Hammer of the Scots

In order to do this the Hundred Rolls were commissioned by King Edward I to inquire into the rights of land holders. The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-75 recorded: “Item: Then Ralph Kalekin holds half a fee in Freydevile of William de Say and the same William of the king in chief, by what service they do not know”.
This inquiry took place only a few years after the breakdown of law and order caused by the Second Barons War and many records had been destroyed in the ensuing prolonged disruption of civil administration and tax gathering. Possibly only half a fee at Freydevile is referred to because of inaccurate recording, or perhaps there was a deliberate effort on behalf of Ralph Colkyn to evade taxation on a whole fee which also included Esol.

Some thirty years later the Aids and Scutages Roll for Marrying The King’s Eldest Daughter for Eastry Hundred of 1303 records one [knight’s] fee held by John [Johan] Colkyn at Esol and Fredevill’ from Geoffrey [Galfrid] de Say. This John Colkyn was presumably the son and heir of Ralph Colkyn and had inherited the one unified fee from Ralf.
John Colkyn [1] died three years after the inquiry and his Post Mortem Inquisition of 1306 recorded his having “died possessed of property at Esol and Freydevill’” which was to be inherited by his son, also called John.
Inquisitions post mortem, usually written as Post Mortem Inquisition [PMI], were local inquiries into valuable properties, in order to discover what income and rights were due to the Crown and who the heir should be. These inquiries took place when people were known or believed to have held lands of the Crown, and therefore involved individuals of considerable wealth and status.

Edward II, a weak king defeated by the Scots at Bannockburn in 1314

The heir to John Colkyn (2) was his son, another John Colkyn (3), who was in his minority when he inherited his father’s property. As a minor inheriting property held from an over-lord John (3) became a ward of his over-lord. However, at the time John’s over-lord, Geoffrey de Say was also a minor and accordingly a ward of the Crown.

In 1315 Sir Henry Beaufuiz [Beaufitz, Beaufiz], a King’s Justice, purchased by enrolment of grant a messuage and 25 acres in Esewele from Walter atte Bergh [Walter Abarowe] who had inherited the  property from family members. The exact location of this messuage is at present not certain, but it would have made Sir Henry a near neighbour of the Colkyns at their Esol manor house.
After the death of John Colkyn (2) Sir Henry appears to have acquired the wardship of the minor John Colkyn, which meant that Sir Henry had control of John’s property until he came of age. At this time Sir Henry was owed a considerable amount of money by King Edward II in connection with Sir Henry’s military service in the King’s ill fated Scottish campaigns, and so most likey received the young John Colkyn’s wardship as part payment for these debts.

Sir Henry died in 1325 but John Colkyn (3) did not have his property returned to him until Sir Henry’s executors were ordered to do so by King Edward III in February of 1337 [1338] when John  proved he had reached his majority, indicating that he had been born around 1316. The property returned was a messuage and a carucate of land  held in his demesne [the land retained on a manor by the lord of the manor for his own use] in Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton and held as of fee  from Geoffrey de Say by the service of a moiety of a knight’s fee, possibly the same moiety [three parts of the whole] referred to in the sale of moiety of Essewell to Roger de Kennardington in the early 1240’s.
If the messuage and land held in desmesne by John Colkyn were the same as that later held by Sir John de Beauchamp at Esol, then this would have amounted to around 136 or so acres. Sir John presumably held the messuage and land previously held by the Colkyns, but not the knight’s fee of Essewelle or manorial rights at Esol. After the Colkyns tenure ended the knight’s fee of Essewelle had reverted back to the Barony of Say and the manorial rights were held by the Abbot of St. Alban’s.

The year after Sir Henry’s death Alice, his daughter and sole heiress, and her husband Sir William de Plumpton, a Yorkshire knight, sold “2 messuages, 90 acres of land, 70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” to Richard de Retlyng (1), these were presumably her father’s Esewele property with another messuage, an additional 65 acres of land, and what appears to be a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle yielding manorial rents and dues. Sir Henry appears to have acquired a part of the Manor of Esol’s moiety of Essewelle, but unfortunately there is at present no known record of any such transaction.
Some twenty years later Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng, (1) was recorded as being one of several people responsible for payments owed for the Essewelle fee in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346. This responsibility appears to accrue from the 1326 purchase made by the elder Richard de Retlyng.

Richard de Retlyng (1) [who should not to be confused with Sir Richard de Retlyn(g) of Retlyng/Ratling Manor, a kinsman but not directly connected to the following events] was a trusted servant of the Crown and served Edward II and Edward III from the 1320’s until his death around 1349. Royal service was well rewarded and Richard’s Post Mortem Inquiry records holdings in “Staple; Nonyngton; Kyngeston [Kingston]; Berfraiston [Barfreston], and Godwyneston juxta Wyngeham [Goodnestone-next-Wingham]”.

Edward III, first English king to claim the throne of France

John Colkyn (3) died shortly after regaining possession of his inheritance, his Post Mortem Inquiry was held in September of 1338 and recorded holdings in “Frydewill, Esole, Nunyngton”. He appears to have been only 22 or so when he died and left as his heir John Colkyn (4), who must therefore have been an infant or very young child when he inherited the holdings at Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton from his father.
The 1346 Eastry Hundred Rolls record  that John (4), son of John Colkyn (3); the Abbot of St. Alban’s;  Edmund de Acholt; Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng(1);  and their co-owners [parceners] as being responsible for the fee that John Colkyn (3) had held at Esoll and Freydevill from Geoffrey de Say for 40s (£2) annually.

[De Johanne filio Johannis Colkyn, abbate de Sancto Albano, Edmundo de Acholt, Ricardo filio Ricardi de Retlyng, et parcenariis suis, pro j. f. quod Johannes Colkyn tenuit apud Esol et Freydevill de Galfrido de Say    –    xl. s.].

Richard de Retlyng’s (2) father’s 1326 purchase from Alice de Plumpton of: “70s.[£3.50] rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton”  appears to be what made Richard de Retlyng (2) one of the four joint holders of the Knight’s Fee of Essewelle previously in the sole possession of  the Colkyn family. The Abbot of St. Alban’s, Edmund de Acholt  and the other  unknown “parceners”  also seem to have acquired a part of the fee either before or after the death of John Colkyn [3] in late 1338.

The property returned to John Colkyn [3] in 1338 was recorded as being a messuage and a carucate of land held in his demesne [the land retained on a manor by the lord of the manor for his own use] in Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton. However, there is no mention of the knight’s fee of Essewelle or the manors of Esol and Fredvill’, so there is no indication as to how much of the knight’s fee or what manorial rights and revenues he still retained.

John Colkyn [4] was the last Colkyn male to hold the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Why the family actually gave up the knight’s fee is, at present, a matter for speculation. Possibly the infant inheritor died from one of the many diseases then fatal to an infant, or perhaps the young Colkyn heir may have been one of the tens of thousands of victims of the Black Death which swept through England between 1348 and 1450 with sporadic outbreaks continuing into the 1360’s, and his heirs decided that in the aftermath of the Black Death that the knight’s fee, manors of Fredvill’ and Esol, and the Esol messuage and land were no longer of any financial or other benefit? Another possibility is that the infant heir lived on and that his guardians had come to the same decision and sold up to give the young John some financial security?

The Black Death killed up to a half of the population of England in the late 1340's.
The Black Death killed up to a half of the population of England in the late 1340’s.

The Black Death killed between one third and a half of the population of England and as a result of this high mortality land was readily available, but the returns from agriculture were greatly diminished as the cost of employing a now scarce labour force rapidly increased and the market for agricultural produce correspondingly shrank. To counteract this state of affairs the Statute of Labourers was passed in 1351 in an effort to stop labourers taking advantage of the shortage of workers and demanding more money. The statute forced them to work for the same wages as before the Black Death and allowed landowners to insist on labour services being performed instead of accepting money (commutation) in lieu of service. Landowners accordingly profited from the food shortages, whilst the labourers standard of living declined due to substantial increases in the price of basic food stuffs such as bread and ale. A consequence of the shortage of labour was that much of the land previously used in food production was used to rear sheep as wool became more profitable, especially when shipped to Continental markets.

There were potential heirs to the infant John Colkyn’s property living close by. Thomas Colkyn, the infant John’s paternal uncle, lived nearby at Ratling until at least 1345, when he sold land in Nonington to Thomas de Retlyngge, although it is possible Thomas predeceased the infant John.
However, there are indications that Thomas Colkyn and his wife, Alma, themselves had heirs. There there are records of “Isabella filia de Retling de Nonington”, the daughter of Richard de Retling “by the daughter and heir of Colkin” marrying “Johannes Oxenden de Wingham” later in the century.

Geoffrey de Say, over-lord of Essewelle, at the Battle of Crecy, 1346

When the Colkyns gave up possession of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, apparently after 1346 but before the early to mid-1350’s, it reverted back to the Barony of Say, as did the manor of Freydevill. These facts are known as at some time prior to 1356 Sir Geoffrey de Say, Lord Say, awarded a lifetime interest in the manor of Freydvill’ to Sir John Harleston, with the interest to revert to the de Says or their heirs when Sir John died. This award of a lifetime interest could not have been made unless the manor of Fredvill’ had been in exclusive possession of Sir Geoffrey de Say, so it must have therefore reverted to him by the time of the award. After the death of Sir Geoffrey de Say in 1360 the knight’s fee of Essewelle and the manor of Fredville remained in the possession of his heirs until five-sixths of the manor of Fredville was sold by various inheritors to John Quadryng, a London mercer, in the early 1400’s.

It is therefore possible that the Colkyns retained possession of the Manor of Freydvill’, perhaps until just before 1356, but that possession of the Manor of Esol had at sometime previously, been transferred to other people, possibly commencing in the early 1320’s when Sir Henry de Beaufuiz had the wardship of John Colkyn [III] and appears to have obtained manorial rights and rents of “70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” which were sold after his death in 1326 by Alice de Plumpton, his daughter and heiress, to Richard de Retlyng the Elder.
If this were so, then it would explain the divided ownership referred to above in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346. The most likely scenario is that the Colkyns retained ownership of the entirety of the manor of Freydevill and its rights and revenues, and that at some time after the death of John Colkyn [3] the ownership of the manor of Esol and its rights and revenues was further divided by sale or other means between the Abbot of St. Alban’s; who held the majority share; Edmund de Acholt; and other lesser holders, with Richard de Retlyng the Younger already holding a portion obtained in 1326.

The Colkyns of Essewelle and Esol, or their heirs, must also have sold or in other ways transferred ownership of the messuage and lands pertaining to Esol at some time between 1338 and 1349 as the the Abbey of St. Alban’s manorial rent roll for Esol for 1349 confirms that the Abbot then held the manorial rights and rents for the manor of Esol, and that messuage and land that John Colkyn [4] had inherited from his father in 1338 was in the possession of Sir John de Beauchamp, who accordingly paid the manorial rents due to the Abbot as Lord of the Manor of Esol.

Whatever ended of the Colkyns tenure of Essewelle and its constituent manors of Esol and Fredvill’, the Abbot of St. Alban’s Abbey obviously thought that the Manor of Esol, along with its revenues and rights, was worth acquiring. This may well have been because it was contiguous with the Abbey’s own Manor of Eswalt and also had the added financial benefit that its manorial rents and dues had to be paid whether agriculture for the manorial tenants was profitable or not and therefore guaranteed a known annual revenue stream.

Sir John de Beauchamp must also have thought that the messuage and land at Esol was a good prospect, most likely due to its location near to the ports of Sandwich and Dover than for its revenues. The manorial rent rolls showed Sir John de Beauchamp’s holding at Esol [Esole] as:-‘one messuage with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’. This messuage and land became known as Bechams, which in  recent times has reverted to Beauchamps. Despite a tenure  of probably less than thirty years at Esol  the ruins of the manor house and the surrounding land still retain his family name nearly 700 years after he bought them.

Over the succeeding years the Abbey’s old manor of Eswalt and the new manor of Esole gradually merged into a single entity which by the early part of the 1500’s was generally known as the “Manor of Esole otherwise Seynt Albons Court”. The assimilation of the two names into Esole has caused a lot of confusion over the centuries with Eswalt being confused with Esole, and vice versa.

As the Lord of the Manor of Esol the Abbot of St. Alban’s owed payment on a half of the knight’s fee for Essewelle,  a liability transferred to subsequent owners of the manor. In 1540 the fees became Crown revenue and as such were eventually sold to private individual as fee farm rents.
The fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias Essoles alias St. Albans Court [in Nonington]” were “extinguished by purchase” by William Hammond in 1738. A
t the same time the fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias ffredvile [Fredville in Nonington]” were also “extinguished by purchase”  by the Duke of Newcastle, the then owner of the manor.

Please feel free to comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Return to top of page
%d bloggers like this: